Could global warming's elevation of sea levels result in a flood here in New York City? Some scientists say yes, and suggest that the city erect expensive storm surge barriers to protect low-lying areas. Others worry about the cost and caution restraint until the potential danger is more evident. But we may be facing the threat even now-particularly with this goddamn rain.
Indeed, some civil engineers argue the city already risks catastrophic storm flooding. "A storm surge is not really a global warming issue" for New York, says senior engineer Dennis Padron at Halcrow Inc., which helped design a 15-mile-long storm barrier in St. Petersburg. "It could happen tomorrow."
Under certain conditions, a hurricane now could generate a 30-foot-high storm surge and flood 100 square miles of New York. If ice melts and sea level rises, that risk increases. "If you have 20 inches of sea level rise, the edges of lower Manhattan would flood 20 times a year," says Douglas Hill, a consulting engineer at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. "It would look like Venice."
Oh, well, who doesn't love Venice? I guess we could deal.